You've passed the bar! Huzzahs all around, and with any luck you have a job waiting for you as well.
But as the sparkles and warm fuzzies of bar passage fade, you'll enter the cold, unfeeling world of being in active practice, and you will be assaulted with emails about your local bar associations.
So, to the clear and present question: Are these local bar associations worth joining?
What Are Local Bar Associations?
Well, unlike your resident state bar association, those guys you paid hundreds of dollars for the privilege of taking the bar exam, the local bar associations (LBAs) are made up of groups of lawyers in your city/region and who are in your practice area.
They most often find you by spamming your state bar profile, which in all states is required to have an updated mailing address, so even before your bar card arrives, you will be inundated with letters from orgs like the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) or the Houston Bar Association (HBA).
What Do LBAs Offer?
Mostly they offer food for the many toothed monster that lives in all paper shredders, but spam aside, they provide attorneys with these four M's:
- Mentoring. Your local bar association may have a section for attorneys fresh on the scene, and you may find yourself a good legal Yoda to mentor you (if you don't like Star Wars, think Sean Connery from "Highlander," but with legal knowledge).
- Mixers. Don't think about it as "networking," no one likes that guy who comes to the party with his card already out of his hand and into yours before you've said a word. Your local bar association mixer is a way to meet other attorneys in your locale and practice area, and (don't minimize this) free drinks.
- Magazines! Impress friends and visiting family members alike with a local bar association magazine on your coffee table proclaiming the "Top (number) Super (practice) Lawyers of (place)," or a fascinating article on how BigLaw lawyers manage to stay so down to earth by doing pro bono work.
- Maybe jobs. If you're going for the brass ring, that BigLaw job or Circuit Court clerkship, you might get a teeny tiny head start by checking out your local bar association's job postings. It isn't Craigslist, but maybe you'll recognize some firm name from one of those mixers.
There might also be some fringe benefits such as coupons/discounts on car rentals, malpractice insurance, or Westlaw subscriptions.
How Much Do They Cost?
The price of annual admission to these LBAs depends on which one you plan on joining and how long you've been practicing.
Case in point, the LACBA offers memberships ranging from $125 for members admitted to the in 2011 or later, and up to $275 dollars for members admitted in 2002 or earlier.
It's up to you to decide how important it is for you to join based on the possible benefits and your budget. And as a new lawyer, you may not have money to burn on several annual membership fees.
You have student loans remember?
- State & Local Bar Associations (American Bar Association)
- 111 Ways to Find Your Next Legal or Non-Legal Job (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- Networking Made Easier With 3 Smartphone Apps (FindLaw's Technologist)
- FindLaw's Guide to Malpractice Insurance ... Just Because (FindLaw's Strategist)